The Venezuelan government intervened in the official process for participation by Transparencia Venezuela at the Organisation of American States (OAS) with the aim of silencing a report on that country’s compliance with the Inter-American Convention against Corruption. The censored report is based on official governmental information and shows that no steps have been taken to fulfil the Convention and the sixty recommendations made to Venezuela in a first round of evaluations in 2004.
Transparencia Venezuela and Transparency International (TI), the international Secretariat, urge that the OAS recognise this violation and defend civil society’s right to participate in the legitimate process to follow-up on countries’ commitments. The OAS, which has regulations promoting civil society participation, has had the opportunity to intervene since December 2006, when Venezuela began its efforts to block the report by Transparency Venezuela.
“This obstacle, which has gone unchallenged by the OAS, severely limits civil society’s participation and keeps us from exercising the oversight role of NGOs that is vital for the fight against corruption in our country,” said Mercedes De Freitas, Executive Director of Transparencia Venezuela.
Transparencia Venezuela is the only civil society organisation monitoring Venezuela’s compliance with anti-corruption commitments made through the Convention. The report, drafted in response to an evaluation questionnaire, would have been formally presented on Monday before the OAS’s Committee of Experts, a group responsible for following up on the Convention’s implementation. The Committee takes into consideration civil society’s analysis and recommendations parallel to reports by governments evaluated.
“The OAS is indifferent to a limitation that undermines the efficiency of the evaluation process with independent bodies and hinders the Convention’s effective implementation. This convention is at risk of failure,” said Silke Pfeiffer, Director for the Americas at Transparency International.
Citing a 2000 legal decision, the Venezuelan government claims that Transparencia Venezuela is not a civil society organisation, and therefore cannot participate in the official monitoring process, because it receives funding from abroad.
“We are not in breach of any legal requirement. This decision sets a worrying precedent for Latin America by allowing any public entity the right to select which groups can monitor their actions. This is against the principles of a free society and of the OAS,” added De Freitas.
Following Transparencia Venezuela’s submission of its report to the OAS by the November 2006 deadline, the General Comptroller, the official representative of Venezuela, requested the removal of Transparencia Venezuela´s report from the OAS website. Venezuela also did not allow a presentation of findings by the organisation before the Experts Committee as was done by civil society from other countries.
Thirty two civil society organisations from the Americas expressed concern in a June communiqué, rejecting the OAS decision and stressing that this is a clear violation of civil society’s participation in the process that was created to involve them.
Transparencia Venezuela´s report responds to the Committee’s evaluation questionnaire and focuses on government procurement, government hiring, whistleblower protection and the criminalisation of specific acts of corruption. The extent to which the states party to the Convention have implemented the recommendations issued to each country by the Committee of Experts is also under review.
Note to Editors:
A copy of the Venezuelan government’s letter to the OAS requesting the removal of Transparencia Venezuela’s report from the OAS website is available (in Spanish).
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